Fireside Chat on the Sacred Land of America
19 July 2015
Good Evening, Friends.
On a Sunday night a week after my announcement of candidacy for the United States Senate, I used a podcast to tell you about the campaign and the measures we were taking to conduct it. I think that in that way I made clear to the voters various facts that might otherwise have been misunderstood and in general provided a means of understanding which did much to restore confidence.
Tonight, eight weeks later, I come again to give you my report – in the same spirit and by the same means to tell you about what we have been doing and what we are planning to do.
One point I have tried repeatedly to make is that our political culture should be raised to a higher standard. Mindless parroting of soundbites, uncritical acceptance of party platforms, and the vicious partisanship of special interest groups is beneath us as Americans. We are the descendants of conquerors and settlers, of explorers and pioneers. Like our ancestors, we, too, live on the frontier, though one of a different sort: Silicon Valley has created technology that would have been pure magick to the Californians of 1915. Our athletic culture has developed such fine specimens of the human organism that they might be supermen to the Americans of 1815. Our doctors and researchers have made breakthroughs in medicine that would seem otherworldly to the colonists of 1715.
And yet, as advanced as we have become in certain areas, our political culture remains just as petty, just as mindless, just as backward as it was when President Woodrow Wilson set out to make the world safe for democracy. More to the point, we still see our country in the stranglehold of the same two warring parties: the Republicans and the Democrats. Though many of us have a knee-jerk reaction that this is an obvious failing of our people, I would submit to you that it should give us pause for reflection rather than anger.
We should ask ourselves: Why do such large numbers of people adhere to the Republican and Democratic platforms even knowing that they are ideologically bankrupt? Why do Americans complain of the two-party system and yet continue to vote within it? And what could a third party ever do to compete with this machine?
I answer that the Republican and the Democratic Parties are able to hold such large numbers because they each represent to the American people a vision of a way of life. The Republican Party envisions an America in which God and Country are given the glory, in which individual responsibility and familial virtue are sanctified. The Democratic Party envisions an America in which all men and women are created equal, in which no one is allowed to discriminate against or bully another, in which individuals may live their own lives in a tolerant and caring community.
The Libertarian Party, in contrast, has no vision of the future; it merely clings to the past. And where the Republicans see the Government as a stern father, the Democrats a loving mother, the Libertarians see only an enemy. Libertarians rightly see the Government as a necessary evil, and they warn true of its overgrowth – but they offer no alternative to the competing visions of the Republicans and the Democrats.
So why should anyone leave their Party? For “more freedom”? To cut their own way through the jungle? Certainly not, for we cannot wish away reality. It is human nature to assent to the popular and longstanding vision of others rather than to create the future oneself; and it is far more preferable to the mass of humanity to believe in something than to stand against something on mere principle.
Buckminster Fuller once said that, “[y]ou never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” If we want to convince others of our cause, we must build a new model for our fellow Americans. We must stand for something, and not just against the Government. Our country does not need more critics and doomsayers: our country needs a vision.
In the first three chapters in this series, I explained to you the meaning and the methods of this campaign; responded to several criticisms; and called for the unity of the Libertarian Party. In the next three chapters I discussed the three main points of my platform, arguing for an end to the drug war, a cessation of unnecessary hostilities abroad, and the need for our generation to address the monetary crisis before it becomes the problem of our children. In the present three chapters, I will speak of things to come.
I now offer you a vision of the future. In doing so, I must begin where all great visions begin: with the land.
Whether nomad or farmer, king or hunter, our land is inextricably linked with our humanity. Even the lifelong seafarer sees his voyage across the desolate waters as the journey to foreign lands. And our ancestors, who braved the sea to face the Wilderness, saw their voyage as a journey to a new homeland. America is our homeland. America is our soil. Its shores and mountains, its plains and creeks, its rivers and deserts, are ours to inhabit, to cultivate, and to protect, both from outsiders and from ourselves.
From Maine to Hawaii, and from Florida to Alaska, the land our ancestors conquered and settled is our inheritance. Let us prate not of morality: what is done is done. This land is ours, just as Mexico belongs to the descendants of the Spanish who conquered the land of the Aztecs; just as North Africa belongs to the descendants of the Muslim Arabs who conquered the land of the Christians; just as England belongs to the descendants of the Saxons and Normans who conquered the land of the Celts.
This land is ours, and we need to stop feeling guilty about it. Our guilt, our self-doubt, and our weakness keep us from an intimate connection with the soil, which is essential to humanity. This anti-American notion that we are divorced from the land because our ancestors were immigrants is a lie as destructive as it is misleading. And the longer we feel ourselves as something separate from and alien to the land, the greater our destruction becomes.
We must ask ourselves from whence this anti-environmental strain of thought comes. Certainly the unbridled greed of a handful of businessmen, in combination with the unbridled consumption of the American people, has contributed to our devastation of the land, water, air, and wildlife. But that is only symptomatic of the true disease. The origin of this sickness of heart is in what we were taught as children:
- Plants and animals are beneath man, who is the center of God’s creation;
- The earth exists solely for man’s benefit;
- Wealth can only be gained by exploitation of what God has given us;
- God created the world so that man could be at peace;
- Man violated the will of God in eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, and this led to man’s expulsion from Paradise;
- This sin led to the violence in the hearts of men;
- Violence is evil and contrary to the will of God, which demands eternal peace;
- Conquest is therefore evil and contrary to the will of God, which demands eternal peace;
- America was taken by conquest from the unoffending “natives”;
- The land, therefore, does not really belong to us by right;
- We, therefore, do not have the right or the duty to protect this land, which is not ours to begin with.
It should be clear to all that this narrative is the actual source of our self-destructive actions.
So let me share with you a different narrative, a more positive narrative, one that affirms life rather than negating it, that upholds the sanctity of the land, that encourages us to protect our home instead of trashing it.
Cristobal Colon had heard tell of sailing routes across the Atlantic from Moorish sailors. Others had visited a world in the West, they said, a land unimaginable to the crowded civilization of the Mediterranean. In the face of the mockery of his fellow Europeans, he insisted that the stories were true. Convinced of the possibility, he spent five years trying to convince Queen Isabella of Spain to finance his voyage into the unknown. The men under his command: soldiers recently retired due to the success of the Reconquista; brigands; thieves; murderers; men on the edge who dared. And in risking all, they found redemption.
Three months they spent at sea; it was doubtful they would see any end to their voyage but a watery death. But looking back, how trivial those three months of hardship now seem in the face of the new era their arrival created. Forget the gold, forget the power: their discovery led to a change in consciousness for the entire human race.
The English, late to the game, colonized North America. And after a century and a half of British rule, the Americans revolted. It was they, not their British counterparts, who had braved the Wilderness. It was they, not those in the home country, who had created this new nation. These revolutionaries had ambitions of creating a form of Government that would include men of all nations and all faiths. It would be an empire of liberty, and it would lead the world itself to a new age.
Yes, only white men with property were allowed to rule – but that has changed. Yes, many were enslaved – but the institution of slavery has been abolished. Yes, the Native Americans, resentful of the arrival of the Europeans, were driven further and further across the land. But such is life. Do we expect an apology from their descendants for scalping our ancestors and cutting the babies from the wombs of the women settlers under the leadership of Tecumseh? No more than the Pope expects an apology today from the Turks because their ancestors conquered Constantinople. No more than the Sicilians expect an apology today for the invasion of their island by the Moors. No more than the Scots expect an apology from the Norwegians for the Viking raids of old. The guilt we are expected to feel about America’s past is pathological; it has nothing to do with justice.
What justice requires is right action now. We must protect this land we have inherited. We must recognize the desolation of urban sprawl; stop dumping chemicals into the waters from which our children should be able to drink; stop the unlimited and short-sighted consumption of our natural resources; stop turning our soil to concrete as a virus turns flesh to scabs.
I see a future in which we live with Nature, and not against it. I see the possibility of an America without black smoke choking the highways, without trash being trampled on the city lanes. I see children swimming in pristine creeks, birds bathing in clean lakes, lovers boating down sparkling rivers. Human society does not require the filth we have seen fit to live with. What’s more, we have the technology to clean up what damage has been done already. This is our home, and its protection takes priority over all other political issues. Just as we protect our houses from invasion and keep them unpolluted, so should we treat our country. We would not want our dogs and cats choking on chemicals or made homeless by bulldozers: why should that be any different for wolves and whales, bears and herons?
For the American people, Israel is not the Holy Land: America is. This is our home. And unless we see its protection as a priority, all other political issues are meaningless. This must necessarily be the foundation of our vision – for all things are born of the earth, and without respect for the land, the law of the land means nothing.